Restrictions on campus carry may be counterproductive

Daniel Hung

The irony of the push for more restrictions on campus carry is that it will only result in fewer restrictions or no restrictions at all due to litigation or subsequent legislation.

SB 11 allows concealed carry on campus and universities to “establish reasonable rules … regarding the carrying of concealed handguns by license holders on the campus … or on premises located on the campus…” However, the universities “may not establish provisions that generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus of the institution.” The working group needs to be careful to not restricting campus carry so much that it brings about litigation.

Opponents of campus carry want to repeal SB 11, which is politically impossible. Even if half of the Republicans in the Senate and House change their minds and send a bill repealing SB 11, the earliest this can be done is 2017, when the next legislative session begins, and a year after SB 11 goes into effect.

For the slightly more reasonable opponents of campus carry that only want the University to create as many gun-free zones as possible, they are in effect advocating for the University to risk flaunting the letter and spirit of SB 11. The result of that may be litigation from gun rights groups such as Students for Concealed Carry, which has sued universities in the past for restricting gun rights. Therefore the University working group needs to restrict campus carry as little as possible or face potential litigation.

In such a litigation, the judge may ask if the University followed the intent of the legislature. For example, State Sen. Brian Birdwell, the lead author of SB 11 said that his legislation would allow for very limited, reasonable prohibitions on campus carry. Exemptions for entire dorms or other buildings would not be allowed, he said. If the University goes against the legislative intent of SB 11, it may be forced to redraft the rules.

Another possible consideration in litigation is whether the working group tasked with creating the rules did so objectively. Certain members of the working group have been publicly and vocally against campus carry. Having them on the working group is like making the town arsonist the fire chief. I will not speculate on the result of any possible litigation, but if it ends up in the Texas Supreme Court, I want to point out that all nine justices are Republican. Besides the working group needing to be careful in crafting rules, opponents of campus carry are likely counterproductive to their goals.

Regardless of the result of litigation, it is clear that some members of the Texas Legislature are open to passing a bill that eliminates the University’s right to create rules restricting campus carry. If some legislators believe the University restricted campus carry too much, they may pass legislation in 2017 that takes away the University’s power to restrict campus carry. This outcome is far more likely than a repeal of SB 11. And the ones that are inadvertently pushing for this outcome are not the supporters of campus carry, but instead the opponents.

Hung is a second year law student from Brownsville.